A Family's Journey in Faith
by John and Teresa Schultz

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Foster care always comes with questions.  This was the case when we brought little Asya home from the hospital.  She had a difficult birth, eight weeks premature, with many medical issues; the worst was cerebral palsy.

Asya spent more than two months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Fairfax Hospital.  While we had been told Asya would be going into the adoption program, they quickly found out that things were much more complicated. "She didn't really have anyone visiting her in the hospital, so she attached to us quickly," especially with Teresa "wearing" her each day for many hours in a special wrap given to her by the Niedermaiers.

Asya's first Christmas was a joy.  She had just started smiling and really reacting to the people around her.  She loved the music the choir sang and listened to the special music box made by Dick Weiand.  Still, we wondered if this would be her only Christmas in our home.  We knew from the staff at Fairfax County that all relatives needed to be contacted to see if there was any interest in adopting the baby, and the birth family takes precedence.

In March, family members had requested to see the baby.  It was the baby's great-grandparents, so our thought was "they just wanted to see how Asya was doing".  We met Asya's cousin and great-grandparents at the county offices.  The cousin translated from English to Spanish so they could communicate.  They asked about her health and how she was eating.  Finally, after 40 minutes of passing the baby around and chatting, there was a pause.  The great-grandfather spoke softly but deliberately."  The cousin translated: "We would like to know when we can adopt her."

The world stopped for us.  All of a sudden the fear of losing little Asya was so real. "We both tried to hide our emotions, but the tears came."  We knew God brought us little Asya for a reason, and we knew it would be difficult, but our faith would be tested.

The great-grandparents began to have more frequent visits at the country offices, and they were required to take the same adoption classes that we took for 10 weeks.  August 1 was a very important day - the day that we had to explain to a panel of social workers at Fairfax County what the baby's needs were.  The social workers voted on the permanent placement of the baby after meeting with us as well as the great-grandparents.  They had to decide if she was better off staying with us due to her special needs, or if she should go to live with her great-grandparents.

The meeting lasted an hour.  The county wanted her to stay with us.  We celebrated that night with friends at a favorite restaurant.  Asya came, too.

Then, one week later, there was another call from the county.  The family had appealed the decision, and managers at the county over-ruled the panel's decision and backed the relatives.  Fairfax County would go to court with a plan to let the great-grandparents adopt little Asya.  We were crushed.  We didn't understand why God would allow this to happen.  I thought about Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain, and thinking he would have to sacrifice his son.  I thought - why would this baby be given a dad, then then have to make that adjustment all over again?

We talked to a few lawyers and considered petitioning the court for custody.  We thought we might never see her again if she left our home.  Then, I went to Adoration in the Chapel on a Thursday night, knelt down, prayed and cried.  I asked God to tell me what to do...and He answered: "The great-grandparents are my children too, treat them as family.  TRUST ME."

In late August, I noticed a lovely lady at church each day smiling at Asya and me, who spoke with us after Mass.  I found out that her name was Patty and she spoke fluent Spanish.  She offered to come to our home and meet with the birth family in a private dinner, without county workers.  She was very instrumental in gaining their trust and bridging the gap between the birth family and us.  God places people in your lives for specific reasons.

The court date brought no surprises.  The judge accepted the county's plan.  We were obligated to work with the county on transitioning Asya into the great-grandparents home.  "For the month of October, the birth family spend five days a week in our home for seven to eight hours a day learning how to care for our dear Asya.  We prayed, cried and took turns holding the baby at night while she slept, all the while wondering if our days of caring for her were numbered."

As the month progressed, we all became like family, and the great-grandparents saw how attached she was to us and how much we loved her.  On November 4, they came to our home with the social workers and told us they wanted us to adopt her.  We were overjoyed with emotion, and both families held each other, cried, and prayed together.

This was the beginning of a new family.  The great-grandparents came to St. Mark for Mass one Sunday, and many friends of ours welcomed them.  Many people spoke Spanish to them, which meant a great deal to them.  We also attended their church in Woodbridge one evening where we met their entire family.

During this entire process, our wonderful parish family supported us with prayers and love.  Mary Shannon, our resident saint, prepared many spiritual bouquets for our family in which many parishioners promised to offer up their prayers, Masses, and Rosaries for our petitions.  We will always be grateful to our St. Mark community for this.  God does answer our prayers.

On January 13, Mary Anastasya was baptized on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord with Monsignor Cassidy presiding.  What a joyous celebration we will never forget!  Many friends said that they too could feel the Spirit move that day in the church.  Many non-Catholics from the county offices who attended still speak of how touched they all were at this out-pouring of love from our church family.

Every other week, the great-grandparents come to our home on Sundays for brunch to spend time with Asya and us.  Patty is still translating, as well as many other wonderful friends who have volunteered to help us when Patty is not available.

On February 11, on the 150th year of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, we signed the proposed adoption papers.  On June 10th, the day before Asya turned two, we formally adopted her.  She is a delightful, happy child who only knows the wonderful family of St. Mark who smile at her and continue to pray for her full recovery.

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